Jerry Clower was born in Liberty, Mississippi, on September 28, 1926. He joined the Navy immediately after finishing high school, and served on the aircraft carrier Bennington in the Pacific during World War II. After the war he attended Southwest Mississippi Junior College and Mississippi State University, receiving a degree in agriculture from the latter. He subsequently became a fertilizer salesman for the Mississippi Chemical Corporation, and over a span of eighteen years rose to the position of director of field services.
It was while working as a salesman that Clower's gift for humor became known; he often told humorous stories about his childhood as a way to improve sales. One of his friends thought he should go into comedy full time and taped one of his stories and sent it to MCA Records in Nashville. The record company was impressed, and Jerry Clower from Yazoo City, Mississippi Talkin' was released in 1970; the album achieved gold status within a few months, and Clower gave up fertilizer sales for comedy. By 1973 he was a regular at the Grand Ole Opry, and remained as such until his death.
Much of Clower's humor revolved around life in the rural South and the multitude of situations that non-Southerners found hilarious. He was especially famous for the Ledbetter clan, a family of hicks he made up for the purpose of relating various stories. In addition to humor, Clower was also known for his devout Southern Baptist beliefs, which occasionally made their way into his stories. He served as a lay minister and deacon at his hometown church, and also hosted a Christian radio show and a syndicated television show.
Clower was also the author of four best-selling books: Ain't God Good (1975), which became the basis and title for a documentary film which won an award from the New York International Film Festival in the category of Ethics and Religion; Let the Hammer Down! (1979); Life Everlaughter (1987); Stories from Home (1992), an autobiographical collection of stories.
Jerry Clower died in Jackson, Mississippi, on August 24, 1998, five days after undergoing heart bypass surgery. He was survived by his wife, Homerline Wells, and four children.
From Yazoo City, Mississippi Talkin' (1971)
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